In the Activity Spotlight we highlight some of the many great activities available within a short drive from Ravenwood Castle. This week’s Activity Spotlight is written by the newest member of the Ravenwood Castle family, Virginia Magill.
One of the favorite activities of our guests at Ravenwood Castle is exploring the Hocking Hills area, and for the first time in over 50 years, there are new trails to explore! The Whispering Cave Trail and Hemlock Bridge Trail opened in May 2017, adding approximately 1.5 miles with must-see features that were previously off limits. We decided to check it out for you and we were not disappointed!
The trail head for the Hemlock Bridge Trail is accessed from the parking lot of the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge (which sadly burned down – but there are plans to rebuild it in the future). The trail is located on the right as soon as you enter the lot. Alternately, the trail can be accessed by the connector with the Grandma Gatewood Trail between Cedar Falls and Old Man’s Cave.
Beginning from the parking lot, the trail descends down the gorge and deeper into the woods. Along the way, someone had created cairns in several spots. They were really interesting and added a different kind of element to the experience – almost as if the builder was showing reverence of the more majestic rock formations of Hocking Hills. As you make your way along the trail, you will pass by scenic overlooks, a trickling waterfall, and massive rock wall that seems to guide you on your way to the split for the Whispering Cave Trail, which is a short offshoot of the Hemlock Bridge trail.
Whispering Cave is spectacular. It was named for its acoustics – it is said that a whisper at one end of the cave can be heard almost all the way to the other end, which is pretty impressive for its size of 275 feet across and 105 feet high. The waterfall itself seems to whisper as it flows across the top of the cave. (Just a disclaimer: this is not a high volume waterfall, so if it has not rained in a while, it could be just a trickle.) There is a feeling of peace here, and I could have sat there all day looking out into the gorge that is still being carved out by water flowing from the waterfall.
After you have enjoyed the serenity of Whispering Cave, follow the access trail back to the Hemlock Bridge Trail. It will then take you further down the gorge to travel along Salt Creek. This area of the trail is lush and green, reminding me of a tropical rain forest. This vegetation is totally different than at the beginning of the trail, so it seems as if you have gone through two entirely different regions. After a while, you will come to the swinging bridge. The bridge is not too high off the ground for those who do not like heights, but it does sway!
Shortly after crossing, you will come to the end of the Hemlock Bridge Trail and the connection to the Grandma Gatewood Trail. Here you can either turn around and follow the trail back to the trail head, or head left towards Old Man’s Cave or right towards Cedar Falls. I do recommend if you take the other trails to come back around and follow the Hemlock Bridge Trail back to the parking lot rather than taking the path to the dining lodge that is accessible near the Visitor’s Center. It is a much nicer journey to go back through the woods rather than to go around on pavement and roads.
The Hemlock Bridge Trail and the Whispering Cave Trail are both great additions to the Hocking Hills State Park. It is ideal for families looking for a way to explore nature together, as well as couples wanting to go on a romantic hike or an adventure. Even if you have hiked the trails before, they are still breath taking each time!